Poker, a card game, which in most parts of the country is referred to as a game of skill, has been garnering more and more interest not just from the audiences but also from the branded ecosystem over the years. The game has been gaining popularity not just in offline spaces but also in the online ones.
Season 5 of the Poker Sports League (PSL) will stream on JioCinema, and speaking to BestMediaInfo.com, Pranav Bagai, Founder and CEO, PSL, stated that it consists of both professional players and qualifiers.
He also shared that PSL has onboarded Pocket 52 as the Title Sponsor/ Presenting Partner, JioCinema as Streaming Partner, Forbidden Foods (BRB Popped Chips) as Chips Partner, Jimmy's Cocktails as Beverage Partner, Monster Poker Community as Poker Merchandise Partner and Radiohead Brands as Energy Partner. However, some of the Powered by partnerships are still up for grabs!
He further added that the tournament has witnessed some of the best results until now in India- 9,537 unique entries or people playing for the top 36 spots, which is almost 5x of the maximum numbers (2000) clocked in during the earlier seasons.
“This time we have cracked the business model and redone the agreements with all the team owners and we have built it a bit like the way the IPL is structured, where we're doing revenue share back, giving brands the opportunities to advertise, etc.” he said.
Speaking about the viewership expectations, Bagai said he is extremely confident that the streaming would result in more than a crore views.
“Overall, I would say, especially because of the MeitY guidelines, there has been an impact in the way Poker is being perceived and today we're in a pretty good place. In terms of PSL, the demand for teams has been exceptionally high and we have also charged a good premium for the same,” he said.
He also pointed out that the issue with gaming currently is all about it being clubbed with betting, which in itself is a problem because when the betting sites advertise, they advertise themselves as gaming. Hence be it ASCI or even MeitY, they have nothing against Poker or any other fantasy games, which are all games of skill, he opined.
“In fact, JioCinema is not showing any betting brands anymore, not even for surrogate ones and this kind of a lockdown on betting brands not being allowed on their platform in itself is fantastic. We can now separate the two- gaming and betting, gaming shines through for it is a skill and is a necessity for various professionals who are not only fond of it but are making careers out of the same,” he said.
Commenting on the in-game advertising scenario in India, Bagai stated that there would never be in-game advertising in Poker because the platforms in itself are so big and premium that ads will only act as a distraction. Also, the card game is not the right fit for brands who want to opt for in-game advertising because the card game is slightly premium whilst being massy, he said.
“Where you are seeing this is in the other games because the viewership is much higher on casual games as it just makes sense for content creators to find other ways of monetizing- through streaming. If you look at any poker company, you will never see them showing any content on an OTT platform, apart from us, because their model is wrong. Secondly, they will never integrate brands because they don't want the audience distracted while they are on the platform,” he added.
Touching upon what all categories would be most relevant for Season 5 of PSL, Bagai emphasised that since 85% of the viewership comes from men in Poker, “there's a very high correlation with electronic gadgets, sunglasses, headphones, health snacks, energy drinks, etc. who want to target men in the Tier 1 cities and metros because the maximum participation and viewership comes from Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Calcutta, Pune, Hyderabad, Chandigarh, etc.”
“Another reason why PSL can be used to bring in brands is that we have a complete in-house production team and we are doing the broadcast, so we can integrate brands seamlessly, which is beautiful. When a brand comes in, they get integrated at three levels- Branding, customised integration on animated banners and using AI for graphics as well as integrating the brand into the gameplay through brand display, commentators and team owners talking about the brand, etc.
He also went on to add that for the amplification of PSL Season 5, they have banked mainly on meme marketing, influencer marketing, PR, Social media marketing, etc, and for this season the total marketing spend is upwards of Rs 2.5 crores.